Nonprofit Spotlight: SHIP

Fighting For Those Without a Voice

SHIP is the nonprofit organization in Sioux City, Siouxland Human Investment Partnership, which provides leadership in response to identified community needs and collaboratively supports the delivery of health, human services, education, and public safety in Siouxland. To put it more concisely, these are the people behind the scenes who devote all their time and effort to connect resources to the people who need them the most; they allocate state funds to the best use locally. The organization traces its beginnings to 1998.

“Prior to 1998, decategorized child welfare and Early Childhood Iowa (ECI) dollars were state-prescribed; officials in Des Moines decided where funds for programs for children, or families with children, in the child welfare system, were distributed. At about this time, our legislature noticed that every community in Iowa is different. For example, Ida County is rural, whereas Woodbury and Polk County are urban. You can’t have the same types of programming in all three communities because their needs and gaps are different. The legislature decided to allow each county to apply for those dollars and then make boards around those dollars so that they could decide what’s best for their community and prescribe what funding and programs would be best for their community. That was how SHIP was formed,” stated SHIP Executive Director Matt Ohman.

As stated on its website, SHIP is the Decategorization (DCAT) Board for Woodbury County. DCAT is a collaborative child welfare and juvenile justice planning process. Since its inception in 1999, SHIP has evolved into an organization capable of administering initiatives focusing on health, human services, education, and public safety, with a scope of pre-birth to death in serving its constituents. Currently, 20 members serve on the SHIP Board, specializing in early childhood and child welfare. Initially, the Early Childhood Iowa was only Woodbury County, but in 2011, Ida County’s ECI Board merged with SHIP to make one area. 

“I think that every single person employed at SHIP is on a mission to zealously fight for human beings who don’t have a voice for themselves; that’s why we get out of bed every day. For me, specifically, it’s the children because the children we serve, and their families are the most at-risk in our community. Some of them fall through the cracks. That’s our job, to find the cracks and find the kids and do what we can to help them,” stated Kerri Hall, Government Relations/Advocacy & Early Childhood Director.

The Board then facilitates community forums addressing issues confronting the Siouxland community. It builds collaborations among community entities to meet the needs of the citizens, seeks allocations and funding for programs and services, and this way evaluates the delivery of programs and services while also advocating for their sustainability. 

“In some instances, we also can provide Employer of Record services to organizations that need assistance providing benefits, payroll, and human resources to employees, and Fiscal Agent services to organizations that need assistance administering grants and other funding. In addition to managing funds, we also have a lot of programs of our own,” shared Matt.

SHIP Programs: 

  • Beyond the Bell 
  • R-Entry
  • SUNS

Programs SHIP funds:

  • CAA’s Child Care Nurse Consultant
  • Crittenton Center Programs
  • Functional Family Therapy
  • Ida County Preschool Program
  • Lutheran Services in Iowa: HOPES Program
  • Mary Treglia Community House Preschool
  • Preschool Scholarships for Low-Income Families
  • Siouxland District Health HOPES

Programs SHIP serves as Fiscal Agent or Employer: 

  • Growing Community Connections
  • Health and Human Services
  • Juvenile Court Services
  • Hope Street of Siouxland
  • Sky Ranch Behavioral Services
  • Urban Native Center

Building a Stronger Connection with the Native American Community – The Annual Memorial March to Honor Lost Children

“A strong example of what SHIP does in action is our involvement with the Annual Memorial March to Honor Lost Children. We saw the need to help facilitate a discussion, elevate the situation to another level, and then address how we could collaborate and assist to help make progress and make things better,” said Kerri.

Woodbury County has the highest Native American population in the state. Disproportionately, if you look at the number of children in the foster care system and if you look at the juvenile court, the demographic most represented is Native American children.

“A lot of our dollars went to programs for the Native American youth and their families. We worked alongside Frank LaMere, a long-time community advocate and activist, with whom we did a lot of programming. A few years ago, we started working with Terry Medina, another well-known Native American advocate in the community. Through our work with Frank and Terri, we participated in the Annual Memorial March to Honor Lost Children; we now help organize that event for the community and partner with them. The Memorial March takes place the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving,’ stated Matt.

The Memorial March started 20 years ago; its original purpose was a protest against the local health and human services. At that time, a concentrated number of children had perished while in foster care, the majority of them Native American children. 

“After that first March, Health and Human Services started meeting with the Native American Community more regularly, and SHIP formed the Community Initiative for Native Children and Families. Representatives from Juvenile Court and DHS, non-profits, and community members would meet each month. Today, we do a lot of community planning with that group. The Memorial March is truly less of a protest and more about collaboration, unity, and the community working together to make the system better for Native American children and their families. It’s more of a celebration of working together to fit their needs better; however, we still remember the lost children before reaching this point. It’s a peaceful collaboration, and we’re very proud to be a part of it. SHIP elevates issues very well. We bring the whole community together around those issues, and then we facilitate discussions on how to deal with those issues positively,” said Matt. 

For more information about SHIP, to become involved with the organization, or to inquire about becoming a board member, please get in touch with Kim Jenkins at SHIP at (712) 222-6389 or email her at

By Amy Buster

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